Are you ready for your breastfeeding journey with your toddler to come to an end?
Starting a new not-breastfeeding-friendly medication?
Pregnant with your next baby?
Changing your work schedule?
Did you toddler bite you and now you are traumatized? (True story.)
Or are you just emotionally, mentally and physically DONE with breastfeeding?
Regardless of your reason for weaning your breastfeeding toddler, it is going to be a challenge.
I can tell you from experience, any child that has been breastfeeding on demand for more than a year is not letting go of mama’s milk that easily!
She refused to drink from a bottle so I could not go anywhere without her.
It felt like she was attached to my boob all day and all night long.
I was tired of my limited, frumpy, nursing-friendly wardrobe. I was just ready to be me again.
So what is a fed up mama of a super clingy, breastfeeding toddler to do?
If your breastfeeding experience has not been sunshine and rainbows and you are ready to hang up the nursing bra, I got you covered, mama!
I battled the bulging boobs, raging hormones, and crocodile toddler tears and now I’m sharing my tips for how to wean your breastfeeding toddler.
1. Prepare Yourself Mentally
Although I was definitely ready to stop breastfeeding, mostly for my own mental health, it was not a decision I came to easily.
I felt guilty for not enjoying breastfeeding and wanting to stop.
It was a blessing to be able to breastfeed her for 18 months. Was I being ungrateful?
I worried about my daughter.
Would she hate me forever? How would this stressful process affect her in the long term?
Should I just wait until she weans herself? How long would that take?
Motherhood is full of doubts.
My doubts about weaning my breastfeeding toddler were overwhelming.
Here is what I told myself to get through it:
I am an awesome mother.
I applaud myself for breastfeeding for this long.
My baby is well-fed and healthy.
My baby will be just fine.
It is so important to have a positive mindset going into the weaning process.
It is an emotional time and you will need all the strength and patience you can get.
2. Get a Support Person
Make sure you have a support person in your corner (spouse, friend, sister, etc.) who you can count on for both emotional and physical support.
It helps to have someone to whine, complain, vent and cry to.
Keep your positive mindset by letting those negative feelings out.
Find someone who understands, like another mom who has been through the weaning process, so you can talk about how you feel without judgment.
Also, make sure your spouse or partner is on board with providing extra physical support.
If the boobs are visible, your toddler can’t resist wanting to nurse. You need your spouse to step in, especially at night, to help soothe your toddler.
That may require taking your toddler into another room when he is cranky, changing the bedtime routine, or making alternate sleeping arrangements.
It will not be easy.
You will want to give in and just nurse.
You will be exhausted and mentally drained.
But with the support of an understanding and patient spouse/partner/friend, it will be much easier!
3. Prepare For the Pain
I’m not going to lie.
It is going to hurt.
Once you miss just one regular feeding, your breasts will start to become engorged. Your body has become accustomed to producing milk for your baby. It can take some time for your body to stop.
If you can recall when your baby was first born and your milk started to come in, that is what it feels like.
For me, the first 3-4 days were the toughest. I remember feeling like I had two bricks sitting on my chest. My whole body was aching.
You want to pump or just nurse the baby to relieve the pressure but you can’t. It will just prolong the weaning process.
Here are some things you can try to help with the pain:
- An over-the-counter pain reliever – I took Tylenol around the clock for the first couple of days.
- Cold cabbage leaves – Cabbage leaves cup the breast perfectly and the cold will help with the pain. Grab a head or two of cabbage so you can change the leaves frequently.
- Peppermint – Peppermint has been known to help decrease milk supply. I drank several cups of peppermint tea a day.
- Wear a supportive bra – Not too tight as that may cause blocked milk ducts. And make sure you wear nursing pads because there will be leaks.
- Cold compresses – Ice packs or bags of frozen veggies can help soothe engorged breasts.
4. Make Self-Care a Priority
Your hormones and emotions will be on a rollercoaster when you start weaning your breastfeeding toddler. Especially if you do it cold turkey as I did.
I remember feeling sadness, rage, and crippling anxiety all on the same day. It will creep up on you and make you wonder what the heck is wrong with you.
Your body is changing, your baby is growing up, and you need to adjust to the new you.
You may still be dealing with guilt and worry about this change in your life.
Take the time to focus on self-care.
Buy new bras.
Plan a night out.
Drink some wine.
Write in your journal so you can remember this experience with your baby.
After a long journey of using your body to nourish another body, you need to rest and rejuvenate.
5. Prepare Your Toddler
I have talked a lot about how to prepare yourself for weaning. Now it is time to talk about preparing your toddler for weaning!
Plan to wean your breastfeeding toddler before a big transition
Becoming fed up with breastfeeding also happened to coincide with me starting a new part-time job. I had to put my daughter in daycare so we had no choice but to wean from breastfeeding.
I made sure to start the process well ahead of the transition for both me and her.
I would recommend starting the weaning process 2-3 weeks prior to a big transition to give yourself and your baby time to adjust.
Have a little talk with your child
This may sound silly if your toddler is not old enough to understand. Even though he can’t understand words, he can feel your emotion.
Tell him how much you love him and talk about what is going to change.
Reassure your toddler that even though mama’s milk is gone, mama is still here.
Find a lovey
My daughter didn’t have a toy that she was attached to at the time. But I have heard this helps for many toddlers.
A teddy bear, doll, or another stuffed animal that your toddler can hold on to can provide comfort.
Show lots of love
Give your toddler extra love and attention during this weaning process. There will be lots of tears and maybe a few tantrums. A little love will go a long way to help them with this emotional time.
Read one extra book at bedtime.
Sing your toddler’s favorite songs.
Give lots of hugs and kisses especially if they are doing well with the process.
Find a distraction snack
I’m sure I won’t win a “Mom of the Year” award for this tip, but whatever, it works.
There were times that my daughter wanted to nurse and in order to prevent a tantrum, I gave her a snack.
It was plain M&M’s.
Don’t judge me. LOL.
I’m not saying you should give your baby candy to distract them but another (healthier) snack might help take their mind off of breastfeeding.
You Can Do It, Mama!
Out of all the breastfeeding resources I have seen, there don’t seem to be too many about weaning a toddler.
And what I have seen about weaning a toddler, seems to suggest waiting until a toddler weans himself. Ugh.
I’m not going to tell you when to wean your toddler. I’m just here to support you whenever you are ready.
So hopefully my straightforward, honest tales of how to wean a breastfeeding toddler are helpful to you.
Just remember that you are an amazing mom and you can do this. No matter what, just love your baby and most importantly, love yourself.